I'm working on compiling a guide on Temple Etiquette for the Western seeker. Something that would prepare people for there first visit to a Buddhist temple without giving them so much information that it leaves nothing to the imagination or dries out their experience. I feel this would benefit others and help people avoid unnecessary faux pas due to ignorance.
If you would all be so kind, to share some of the knowledge you would have liked to have had on your first visit to the temple with those whom are seeking there first experience at a temple.
As this is a project I have already begun I would like to share my notes on what I think would be of use.
For Theravada Temples specifically:
What is Buddhism?
(A brief structural definition of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and lay community.)
Explain Siddhattha Gotama was a man not a God.
Explain Sakyamuni Gotama's enlightenment and purpose for teaching.
Provide an overview of the Dhamma (Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path).
Explain the purpose and mission of the Sangha.
Explain the role of the lay community and their relationship with the Sangha.
Notes to expound upon:
"The practice of virtue and development of concentration and wisdom in order to end suffering."
"Out of respect and gratitude we give thanks to the Buddha for teaching the Dhamma-vinaya that has benefited our lives so greatly."
"Buddha taught suffering and the end of suffering."
What is a Buddhist Temple or Monastery?
A place to learn the Dhamma.
Home for the Sangha.
A quiet place conducive to meditation.
A place to retreat from the world. (Leave worldly things at the door and focus on spiritual things at temple.)
A place to gain merit.
Remove shoes in sacred areas.
Be mindful of your thoughts, words, and deeds.
Ask questions (at the appropriate time).
Get the temple schedule.
Explain what a monk is for contextual reasoning for the following:
Show respect (action, speech, thought)
Bowing (how and why)
Sitting lower than monks out of respect.
Use titles of veneration in speech. (Bhante, Bhikkhu, Venerable, Most Venerable, etc.)
Don't initiate touching.
Don't point the soles of your feet at the monks or Buddha images while seated in front of them.
List the rules the monks follow from the Sekhiya about teaching Dhamma.
What's going on?
Celebrations (Lunar New Year, Visakha, Ulambana, etc.)
Vassa Retreat and Kathina
- Precepts and Refuges
Purpose and Function
Effect and Affect
Sīla as an aid to meditation.
Morality with immediate effect and profound future effects.
Morality without the threat of heaven or hell.
Precepts and Refuges - Becoming Buddhist
The Three Refuges
How to request the precepts and refuges.
Merit for personal development.
The Merit Economy.
The Sangha as an incomparable field of merit.
How to make an offering.
What to offer:
Please share any points that will make this a more complete guide to new comers and please, help expand these points so they are concise, informative and inviting others to come and see for themselves.
Thank you all very much. I hope this will be of benefit.
Much Mettā to you